This is getting ridiculous. The New York Rangers beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-0 and in the process, posted their third shutout in a row, the first time that they have done that in 49 years. This one wasn’t as easy as they allowed too many good chances to a Jets team desperate to avoid playoff elimination. Igor Shesterkin was outstanding and kept the Jets off the scoreboard in a game that was closer than it needed to be.
Guess who has the best defense in the entire NHL? The New York Rangers are in a tie with the Hurricanes, allowing 2.44 goals per game, the fewest in the NHL. They haven’t led the league since 1970-71.
The Rangers have won six of their last seven and have allowed six goals in those seven games. If shutdown defense and great goaltending wins playoff games, the Rangers are on a roll.
Gerard Gallant was generous in his praise for his goaltender. “He earned that shutout tonight, he played really well. Made some key saves at key times for sure.”
This game answered any questions about Shesterkin who had gone into a bit of a slump. This game was reminiscent of the goaltending he provided earlier this season. He was in perfect position for every shot, didn’t give up any bad rebounds, froze the puck when it made sense and was excellent when he needed to be. The Rangers allowed too many good looks for the Jets, the perfect example being the breakaway by Mason Appleton just seven seconds into the third period with the Rangers clinging to a one goal lead.
With the win, Shesterkin moved into a tie for second with 36 wins, one behind Juuse Saros. He lowered his league leading goals against average to 2.01 and improved his NHL best save percentage to .936.
How good is that? In the post-expansion era, that .936 save percentage would be the fourth best among the 385 NHL goalies who appeared in at least 40 games in a season. His 2.01 goals against average would be the 11th best among the 172 goalies who have played at least 40 games in a season since the 2004 lockout.
Shesterkin complimented his team saying “the guys have been playing a lot harder defensively and really trying to clean up the zone so I can see what’s going on…they’ve been blocking more shots.”
It’s hard to get excited about these games, except for the fact that by winning, the team is preserving the dream of finishing first in the Metropolitan Division. While in an intermission interview, Andrew Copp admitted that finishing first is on their minds, coach Gallant said it doesn’t matter. “I just want to play well. Wherever we finish we finish. Would you like to finish first? Everybody tries to finish first but play the game, see where we go, see how good we play and make sure we’re ready for the playoffs. It’s definitely a goal. We want to finish first but we’re not gonna go crazy to finish first, play one game at a time and see what happens.”